Today, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Prediction for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Neil Jacobs, questioning the creation of a new senior-level position within NOAA and the immediate appointment of David Legates to serve in that role as a Schedule C appointee. Congressional Committees were not given advance notice of the creation of the new position at NOAA or Legates’ appointment to it. Two months later, Dr. Legates was detailed to the Executive Director position for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) with a start date of November 12, 2020.
“I am concerned that the position was created, and Dr. Legates appointed to it, for the specific purpose of detailing him to USGCRP in order to influence the development of the 5th National Climate Assessment,” said Chairwoman Johnson in the letter. “As you are aware, Federal law prohibits agencies from creating schedule C positions for the purpose of detailing that person to a White House position. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) affirmed this limitation in its 2016 Presidential Transition Guide to agencies. The Subcommittee on Global Change Research (SGCR) that directs USGCRP is a part of the National Science and Technology Council, a subsidiary of the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. As such, Dr. Legates’ appointment as Executive Director appears to be prohibited by Public Law 116-93, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020.”